BIBBAK Illinois: An Afternoon with Fellow Igorots

Sunday, August 31, 2008

My three boys and I arrived at the Bunker Hill picnic grove at the Labaugh Woods in Chicago around half past 12. It was not a difficult task to identify which area we were going to. A huge BIBBAK banner hangs over a group of tables where fellow Filipinos were enjoying lunch. I took some water and cupcakes that my wife baked and my boys and I approached the group. We were met by a smiling man who turned out to be one of the 2 adults we knew in that group. I didn’t even recognize Marlon and I had to ask for his name. Marlon and Marissa is a couple from Benguet who we met at a common friend’s house blessing last January. They were the ones who invited us to the BIBBAK gathering.

While I was making sure that my boys had lunch, I was approached by an elderly woman – I knew she looked very familiar. I don’t know how to explain it but women from Sagada and the Cordilleras have a sort of generic look – warm, friendly, nice, with distinct facial features. She pointed to my boys and asked in our dialect if they were all mine. I smiled and said yes. She then asked me if I was “Kamulo”. For a moment, I was surprised but she quickly explained who she was and we embraced. It was a pleasantly unexpected meeting. She happened to be my aunt and a good friend of my mother. Her husband is my mother’s cousin, and she herself is the 1st cousin of my wife’s grandmother. My mother has spoken previously that she was in the United States, but I knew that she was nowhere near Chicago. I haven’t seen her in more than 10 years.

Kids had a fun afternoon

After lunch, the boys weren’t in such a friendly mood and the youngest complained that he wanted to go home. I urged them to play with the other kids to no avail. I watched helplessly as they sat down with the adults in checking if our raffle tickets would win a prize. They waited patiently and I almost pitied them each time a winning number is announced and it was just off the numbers we had. After most of the prizes have been awarded and our chances of winning looked bleak, one of our numbers were called. My oldest eagerly received an envelope with cash. That apparently changed their mood and soon, they were off with other kids, joining the parlor games, playing volleyball and even getting themselves splashed with mud. One of their new found friends gave them a bag of candies that they would munch on the ride home. It turned out to be a fun afternoon for them.

BIBBAK Illinois Activities – Election of Officers and Future Events

As it was my first time with the BIBBAK Illinois group, I watched from the sidelines and had some quick conversation with folks that went my way. This year’s gathering apparently was more than in previous years. There were few folks from Mountain Province, but plenty from Benguet and Baguio. I filled and submitted a membership application. That afternoon, I saw a young group of officers get elected for positions in the next two years – that group included Marlon and Marissa.

The next major activity for the group is the December gathering / Christmas party. They’re planning on a cultural presentation. I was asked twice if I knew how to “men-gang-sa” (play the gong). I don’t. I participated in gong-playing before during weddings back home and in school presentations and these were amongst the more uncomfortable moments in my life. It takes a lot of coordination which doesn’t come naturally to me. You have to beat the gong in rhythm with the others, while moving your hips and feet at the same time. Making these all come together in smooth “suave” way is beyond my grasp. Last time I played the gong was in a BIBAK gathering in Texas, and a fellow i-Sagada was looking at me like “What the hell are you doing?” Ha-ha-ha-ha! So there – I’m hopeless in this area. I’d very much like my kids to learn though that I might consider playing to generate their interest.

A website in the Making?

BIBBAK Illinois is not as well known as their counterparts in the east and west coasts. I was asked if I can help create a web presence, and I most happily obliged. Part of the group’s mission and vision is to reach out with scholarships to students from the Cordillera region. There’s also a general thought that attendance and membership to BIBBAK Illinois could be improved by reaching out to the younger group of Cordillera folks within the state of Illinois. I think that a web presence could definitely help the group in a lot of ways – from letting the world know of its existence, to sharing multi-media, to announcing events, etc... It is definitely something to look forward to.


BIBBAK Illinois - Images and a Video

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Igorots and residents from the Philippine Cordillera region met together for the BIBBAK Illinois 2008 Summer Picnic held at a picnic grove at the Labaugh Woods in Chicago. Here's sharing some images and a video. A story post will be published later. I did miss out on taking a photo of the food - lots and lots of food!

Group picture under the BIBBAK banner.

No BIBBAK gathering without the dancing.

Sacks of rice, bottles of strawberry jam, shirts and other goodies comprised the raffle prizes.

Newly elected and very young batch of officers.

Volleyball during the picnic.

"Where's that bag of water?" Having fun with kids games.

Igorots or not, in the Philippines or in the US, boys of all ages will always enjoy playing with mud.

And, a video of the attendees dancing:


This Igorot's take on the Beijing Olympic Opener

Saturday, August 9, 2008

( Photo credit: Getty Images )

BUMMER: Olympic Opening Ceremonies NOT covered live in the United States!

Thursday night Chicago time, I was excitedly checking NBC's schedule the next Friday morning (Aug 8 evening, Beijing time) for coverage on the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympiad. Advertisements on the network promised that the Olympics would start at 7:30am ET. Now that I think about it, they were right. They didn't lie. What they failed to impress on me, their viewer, was that there was no live coverage of the Olympic Opening ceremonies. Let me say that again - THE OLYMPIC OPENING CEREMONIES WOULDN'T BE SHOWN LIVE IN THE UNITED STATES! I even arranged my meetings that morning so they won't start earlier than 10:30am, and I woke up earlier than usual not to miss a single minute of the ceremonies and all I had to contend with were some yadda-yadda-yadda on the early Chicago news showing a correspondent in Beijing saying the opening ceremonies were about to start in a few minutes. Thats if you were in China or in any other country but the US. Viewers in this country will need to wait 12 more hours...

Finally, they did cover the opening ceremonies. I guess I expected a non-stop, uninterrupted coverage like I witnessed in Singapore during the 2000 Sydney Games. WRONG! Beautiful pageantry was interrupted by commercial advertising. It was reported that the NBC network will rake in a record $1 billion in ad revenue for their Olympic coverage. (Read here.) I guess that's what this is all about - money! There are 18 days of Olympic coverage. The opening ceremonies is for a mere 3-3.5 hours. Couldn't they have shown all their ads in the other days of coverage other than the opening day? Millions of viewers would have been delighted and that's worth more than their ad revenue.

On a side note, people will be crazy to fly with United Air. The airlines showed at least 3 ads during the opening ceremonies. That advertising will most likely be paid by their passengers.

My Affair with the Olympic Opening Ceremonies

Growing up in Sagada in the early 80s, there were no television. My first exposure to the Olympic Games were through Betamax tapes of the 1984 Los Angeles Games. After that, I watched every Olympic opening ceremony on live (or almost live) telecast. I was in high school when I watched the 1988 Seoul Games at our boys dormitory in Diliman. 1992 Barcelona was viewed at our apartment in V. Luna. 1996 Atlanta Games was at the Narra dormitory in UP. 2000 Sydney was viewed at the Tan-Chong towers in Singapore. And 2004 Athens was from our residence in Batasan.

My excitement has been building for more than a week. It would also be the first time for me to watch the ceremonies in high definition TV. And I am in Chicago, a city that is bidding to host the Olympics in 2016. So you can just imagine my disappointment at not being able to watch the coverage live. I'm sure that with their satellite reception, my relatives in Sagada were able to watch the show earlier than I did.


Let's get it over with - the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympiad is simply the best ever! Kamamayatan, kagagawisan - maid maka-abak! (Nicest and greatest ever, no one comes close.) Since 1988, the opening ceremonies I've watched increased progressively in quality and awesome-ness; with perhaps, the exception of the 2004 low budget Athens show. I will not try to describe it, for it is beyond my powers to describe. I'm sure the next one in London will attempt to come close, but I highly doubt that it will be able to. This kind of show can only be produced by the Chinese, that country in Asia that is amongst the first civilizations to be established and that currently holds 1/5 of the world's population. It does help that they had a $100 million budget. (One would argue if this is the best use for this money, but then, let's not go there.)

Plenty of images that I will treasure from the ceremonies - the 2008 drummers doing the countdown, the huge scroll, the tai-chi masters, the waterfall and dolphin projections, the floating dancers, the 29 fireworks / giant steps, the multiple firework displays, the human boxes, the umbrellas with children's faces, the boy with Yao Ming on the parade of nations, the wonderful synchronization that only the Chinese can produce, the breathtaking lighting of the Olympic torch - simply superb.

After watching the ceremonies, my wife and I had this feeling that China showed the world its true power - no one can beat 1.5 billion people representing their best. Perhaps then, its time for my boys to learn Chinese.


I suppose there's a silver lining to the delayed Olympic telecast. (Okay, I admit that much.) For one thing, I was in a very relaxed mood with the work over for the day and no pressures to deal with. Also, the commentators did a very good job and some of their quips, particularly during the parade of nations had us grinning / raising our eyebrows / laughing out loud.

These are some of their quotes in my own words:

  • "Let's be diplomatic and say that some people have different styles." - on a European country's hideous choice of floral uniforms
  • "They don't know what Vladimir Putin already knows." - on the Russian delegation referring to the Georgia - Russia armed conflict that was developing at the very same time
  • "Imagine coming to a stadium with 91,000+ people. It's like, hey, they have 20,000 more people here than our whole country" - on the delegation from Andorra, a country with a population of 70,000+
  • "He should enjoy the opening ceremonies. His Olympics will not last long." - on the flagbearer of a South American country who is a badminton player and drawn to play a Chinese world champion in the first round
  • "With all that money, they still don't have a gold medal." - on the delegation from Monaco
  • "They've won more medals in the international Math Olympiad." - on the delegation from Vietnam
  • "If there is an opening ceremonies trophy, it should be retired just now" - while watching a Chinese champion gymnast fly through the air to light the Olympic torch

Finally, let's all enjoy the Olympic Games. This is the first time I've recorded the opening ceremonies, and its such a nice feeling knowing I can always play it back.


Igorot Images from around the World

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I stumbled across a huge collection of online galleries featuring photos of Igorots in the Philippines and abroad. This is courtesy of the Igorot Galleries in My wife and I took a good hour or so going over the photos. From a remote mountainous region in northwestern Philippines, the Igorots sure have come a long way. Here’s a sampling of the more than 7000+ pictures in the gallery showing Igorot gatherings in Seattle, British Columbia, Tokyo, Australia, Switzerland, and Washington, D.C.


Passing on the IGOROT Heritage through Dance

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Young American Igorots in full costume
Photo from the Igorot Gallery at

I visited a gathering of several BIBBAK groups in Texas while I was there on a project during the fall of 2004. (BIBBAK stands for Bontoc, Ifugao, Benguet, Baguio, Apayao / Abra, Kalinga) I noticed that there was a lady who was in charge of meeting with the children and talking to them about the Igorot culture. Majority of the children were born in the US, and most likely never set foot in the place where the Igorots come from – and that’s in the Cordillera Mountains of Northern Philippines. Still, as most people of every culture has done in history, the parents of these children would like them to learn about who they are. So it is very common amongst migrating Igorots to meet together, and pass on the Igorot heritage to the younger generation.

Teaching children how to play the gong and participate in Igorot dances are effective and fun ways to keep the practice alive. For someone like me who is a very awkward dancer / gong player, it is difficult to teach something I could not even be decent at. (I blushed and huffed my way through an Igorot dance during my wedding day – a terrible memory, really.) But my inabilities shouldn’t pose a problem. There will always be groups of Igorots wherever you are, and most of them will likely be good dancers.

There is a family picnic for BIBBAK – ILLINOIS on Saturday, Aug 23, 2008 at Des Plaines. I’ll be bringing the boys over and we’ll be looking forward to the Cultural Presentation and Native Dance Rehearsal in the afternoon. I will also be posting some pictures in this blog after the event.

My youngest, at 2, playing with a gong in Maryland.


Spike in "IGOROT" interest, etc...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

After a month long hiatus, I'm back and blogging. :-) July is an extremely busy month - what with our 10th wedding anniversary, and the summer hours of playground / swimming pool / tennis court to enjoy. For someone in the Chicago area, summer months are to be savored - like that rare delicacy. But now, July is gone and August is here - the 2nd to the last month of summer before the dreaded 6-month cold season starts. Let's not go there yet though... I'll deal with the cold when its there.

Three things to start the month with:

1. BLOG RE-DESIGN. This blog has been re-designed, woo-hoo! I finally found a template that suits the blog. To my dear visitors, feel free to post any feedback on the blog layout. Of course, suggestions are always welcome. Some caution though - I've tested this layout on latest versions of FIREFOX and INTERNET EXPLORER and it works on both. I did try to access the blog using the IE6.0 browser at the office, and it takes 10 minutes to load the widgets from Picassa and YouTube. Small problem but I always think that browsers need to be updated to fully enjoy the Internet.

2. I finally got PAGERANK! And its not zero. PageRank, that funny measurement of how Google views the importance of a page, has been provided to both this blog and Apparently, calculating a PageRank involves a complex algorithm that Google will not divulge and includes factors such as # of external links, content, etc... A page with a higher PageRank is supposed to get higher traffic since it is displayed first in Google search results. I don't think it is that simple though - for example was ranking between 5 - 8 on the search term "sagada" when it didn't have a PageRank. Now that it has, I don't see any marked improvement on its search results ranking. It maybe too early to tell.

3. Spike in IGOROT searches. I use Google Webmaster Tools to get statistics on my site. If their figures are accurate (and I believe they are), then, the month of July has seen increased searches on the word "igorot". As can be seen from the chart (click on the image above), my site is listed on both the top 10 search results on "igorot" and "sagada". Comparing the percentage of queries that my site appeared on for the months of May and June, the search for the word "igorot" increased from 13% to 31%; while that of the "sagada" decreased from 63% to 38%. Now, if only Google can tell me why this trend is occurring.